Charlotte Mason narration is one of the best ways you can test children today. By using this examination method, parents can make the testing process fun and far less stressful. For this reason, I started researching narration ideas to use in my homeschool. This article will arm you with some fun narration ideas to use and incorporate it into your home education.  

Charlotte Mason warned that children will be a little clunky when they begin narration. However, she assured us that, like public speaking, practice helps lubricate the nerve channels and students eventually become adept at answering these questions.

Rebbecca Devitt

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Narration prepares students for a lifetime where they will be required to give cogent answers to a variety of topics. By employing narration, you help your children be ready with well-thought-out answers they can deliver persuasively.

Why you should use Charlotte Mason narration to test children instead of ordinary testing methods.


What is Narration?

Narration is simply telling someone else back in your own words what you just heard. It is a hallmark of a Charlotte Mason education, a homeschooling method many Christian home educators use. This testing method us useful to examine how much of the reading or lesson your children have absorbed.
When parents read their child a story, they usually want to know how much information the children have taken in. You want to make sure they were paying attention. You can use narration to find out how much they understood.
For example, if you’ve just read about Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, you can say, ‘Can you please pretend you’re Gulliver, and I’ll pretend I’m interviewing you and you have to answer me like you’re Gulliver.’

What are the Benefits of Charlotte Mason Narration Testing?

One of the main benefits of testing using Charlotte Mason narration is that your homeschool becomes less stressful as children have fun role-playing or orally showing you what they know.
Because this sort of testing is often performed informally (i.e. you ask them to ‘tell you what they’ve just heard’ directly after you’ve read the text) children might not even realize they’re being tested. In comparison, mainstream schools often make a big deal of testing, causing children to panic and, in some instances, perform below their capability, due to nervousness about the formal testing methods enforced (i.e. NAPLAN).
At school, children have been known to hyperventilate or be moody for days before a test. However, with narration, because you’re making the test fun, you don’t get these extreme sorts of reactions.

Different Categories of Narration Ideas

The great thing about narration tests is that examinations aren’t always written. It can take many forms which are generally a lot more enjoyable than sitting a student down at their desk and handing them a piece of paper on which to write answers. Different narration ideas include:

  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Building (STEM or STEAM)
  • Drawing
  • Drama

I’ve heard of a few examples of teachers who have students who’ve panicked on a written test and received poor marks. The teachers, in these instances, knows the children have learned the work better than what the test says they do. In these instances, many teachers informally test students by asking them questions about the material after class and moderate their marks.

It seems that when mainstream testing methods go awry, some teachers use narration to test understanding.


What Are Some Narration Ideas?

What are some practical ways you can use this examination method? Some narration ideas (also called Charlotte Mason prompts) are getting your student to:

  1. repeat back to you the storyline of the passage you just read
  2. write about one of the characters they just heard about in the book you just read them (or they just read)
  3. make you a STEM model of the building you just read or heard about
  4. draw you a picture of the building they just learned about
  5. pretend to be a character you just read about, and you ask them questions about their life.

These prompts also force children to tell you what they’ve learned in a variety of ways. By doing so, they learn to think about the material from different perspectives, and thereby learn more and analyze the work in more detail.


What is a Narration Jar and How to Use It

A narration jar is a container that has slips of paper inside. These slips of paper contain different Charlotte Mason narration ideas (as outlined in the above section). Children can pick out these slips after they’ve finished their lesson and follow the instructions therein.

The child has to perform/act/write/build the idea that’s on the paper. This exciting variety can make narration incredibly enjoyable and children come to think of it like they’re playing masquerades!

If you’re feeling nice, you can even include a slip of paper that says, ‘Skip testing for today and have the time off!’


What are Charlotte Mason Narration Cards and How to Use Them

Charlotte Mason narration cards are cards you can purchase or make yourself that contain narration ideas on them (so, they’re similar to the jar idea above). The cards, like in the link above, have different ideas, depending on what grade your child is in.
Narration ideas get more complex as grade levels increase. Here are suggestions from Build Your Library:

6 – 8:

  • Create a puppet show based on the reading.
  • Draw a scene from the reading and include a short caption.
  • Tell 5 things you remember from the reading.

8 – 10:

  • Write a song or poem inspired by the reading.
  • Design a quiz based on the story.
  • Compare and contrast two characters – you can make a Venn Diagram or make a chart. Why are they similar/different?


  • Write a movie script for a scene or event.
  • Choose a character from the story and create a character sketch or map.
  • Make an illustrated timeline.
Why You Should Use Narration To Test Children. #homeschooling #charlottemason #narration #testing

What is a Narration Cube and How to Use It

A Narration Cube is a cube with narration ideas written on the sides. It’s just another way to make the testing process fun, really. Cubes work particularly well if you’re narrating following a reading. Penny Gardner said they wrote the following on their cube:
  • plot – the storyline; what happened in the story
  • setting – where the story happened
  • character – narrate what one of the characters was like
  • compare – compare and contrast with another story, or make a parallel to your life
  • theme – what’s the main point
  • the heart – an open-ended question where you can share your favorite part or a bit that evoked emotion in you.

Requiring children to tell you these details means they’ll end up thinking about stories more closely.


Narration tests are hands-down the most superior way to test kids I’ve ever heard of. Quite frankly, I’ve never really heard of a child begging to be tested, but with a narration jar/cube/cards, I can see this might well be the case! Narration ideas also provide a broad way you can test the knowledge of your kids – it doesn’t just have to be oral. Indeed, you can choose creative, written or even STEM narration! And that’s why you should use narration to test kids. So give these ideas a shot, and let me know how you go!
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Rebecca Devitt

Most adults don't particularly want to relive their schooling experience on a daily basis. They would gladly move on to a new life devoid of homework and teachers. Very, very few adults will passionately blog about their schooling some 15 years after graduating. This makes Rebecca Devitt somewhat unique. As it happens, she was homeschooled. And she loved it. Still does. And she wishes every kid could get a taste of homeschooling at its very best. Her website How Do I Homeschool, is a springboard for parents to see what a life of homeschooling could be for both them & their children. When she's not blogging Rebecca is still homeschooling her-adult-self by learning Latin, growing weird vegetables and most importantly looking after her two children Luke & Penny. She has a husband Tristan and is a participant at Wollongong Baptist Church. She's also written a book about why parents should homeschool called 'Why on Earth Homeschool'.

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